Podcasts of the Week Ending March 16th


Twenty Thousand Hertz :: The Booj

In a world where every movie trailer sounds exactly like every other movie trailer, how does one make their trailer stand out?  The story of The Booj and other elements common to the blockbuster movie trailer formula.  Confession:  I love the sound of The Booj, but can live without the cheezy song covers.

Radiolab :: Asking for Another Friend

This episode investigates several mysteries, including people who don’t clean up their dog’s poop, racist dogs, and why the New York City subway plays the opening notes of a song from West Side Story.

Re:Sound :: Lefty Disco

The first story is the oddly fascinating story of how discrimination against Black and gay people, a radio shockjock, and a baseball double-header collided to become a disastrous promotional event and The Night That Killed Disco.

Best of the Left :: Democratizing our presidential elections (National Popular Vote) ​

The Electoral College is anti-democratic and despite what its supporters say does not help smaller states.  This episode discusses alternatives such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, replacing “winner take all” with proportional allotments, and eliminating the Electoral College entirely.


Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Podcasts of the Week ending November 10


Planet Money :: The Seattle Experiment  and Hot Dog Hail Mary

What if you could give more money to politicians running for office, and spend less money getting food at a NFL game?  Two different Planet Money podcasts focus on experiments, one in Seattle where voters were given money they could donate to their candidate(s) of choice and one in Atlanta where the Falcons are slashing concessions prices.  Find out how these challenges to traditional economics worked out – or didn’t – by listening to these podcast episodes.

RadioLab :: Tweak the Vote

RadioLab explores how ranked choice voting makes elections more representative of the people and more civil in practice.

99% Invisible :: Devolutionary Design

The story of how an image of legendary golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez ended up being used for the cover of legendary rock band Devo’s first album.

 

MASSACHUSETTS: VOTE NOVEMBER 6th (or earlier)!!


Once again, I’m sending out a message to my fellow Bay Staters to get out and vote in the upcoming elections.  A Senate seat, congressional representatives, the governorship, and numerous state and local positions are up for the vote this year. We will will also be voting on three ballot measures.

  • Make sure to Register to Vote by October 17th!!!!
  • Visit My Election Information to see the candidates on the ballot in your district and find out where your polls are located.
  • Consider taking advantage of Early Voting. Early voting in Boston runs from October 22nd to November 2nd, and will be available in other Massachusetts’ communities as well.

When you get to the polls, please consider voting for Jay Gonzalez for Governor.  He is a progressive and will advocate for bold ideas to challenge great amount of inequality in the Commonwealth.  He is focused on supporting public education, repairing and expanding public transportation, improving healthcare (and cutting healthcare costs), and addressing serious environmental problems that contribute to climate change. As the national political scene deteriorates, it is ever more important that “blue states” mobilize to do what needs to be done to protect our people locally and be a model of progressive values.

Which is why Massachusetts definitely cannot continue under a Republican governor.  Charlie Baker is often presented as a moderate and is inordinately popular with Massachusetts Democrats, but he is still a Republican whose conservative ideology benefits the wealthy at the expense of the most vulnerable. Baker has refused to take a stance against the Trump Administration’s worst offenses, and in fact continues to fund raise money for Republicans that is funneled to Trump.  His “reform before revenue” plan for the MBTA has done nothing but allow public transit to further deteriorate.  His Board of Education chair Paul Sagan made illegal campaign contributions to efforts to privatize public education.  And Baker used taxpayer money to make a deal with General Electric, a company whose stock value is crashing and may never build their headquarters in Massachusetts, but will still cash in on Baker’s sweet deal.  Baker is not good for Massachusetts, don’t vote for him!

I also encourage you to vote YES on all three ballot measures:

  • Question 1 – Sets limits on the number of patients a nurse can be assigned to.  It is important that patients receive quality care and attention in Massachusetts’ hospitals and that nurses are not overextended.  I know a lot of nurses – some of the hardest working and compassionate people I know – and they all say to vote YES ON 1.
  • Question 2 – Creates citizens commission to advocate for changes to the U.S. Constitution regarding political spending and corporate personhood. It’s vital to begin to reverse the trend toward oligarchy and make our state and national government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Vote YES ON 2.
  • Question 3 – Maintains a 2016 a law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity. We shouldn’t ever have to vote on the basic human rights of any group of people, but since this question is on the ballot, I implore you to defend equality, dignity, and livelihoods for transgender people by voting YES ON 3.

Happy voting! Let’s all get out and vote for a better future for Massachusetts!

VOTE on September 4th! Massachusetts Primary Elections


If you live in Massachusetts, you have a Primary Election one week from today on September 4, 2018.  Yes, that’s the day after Labor Day!  As general elections in Massachusetts are often uncontested or with minimal opposition to the incumbent, the primary election is YOUR opportunity to have YOUR voice heard.  This year there is an opportunity to vote for several progressive candidates to shake up the complacent Democratic Party establishment.  Despite a clear majority in the Commonwealth’s legislature, Democrats have been hesitant to challenge Republican governor Charlie Baker, and failed to pass popular legislation such as the Safe Communities Act to protect immigrants’ rights or reform the FBRC school funding formula.

If you are a registered member of the Democratic, Libertarian, or Republican parties, you may vote on your party’s ballot on the primary election day.  If you’re an independent – or, “Unenrolled” in official parlance – you may select the ballot of any ONE party to vote on.

Use this tool to find your ballot and where to vote: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx

You can also find a list of candidates for state primaries in Boston here: https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/2018_-_09-04-18_-_state_primary_candidates_all_parties.pdf

I am an independent and will be voting on the Democratic Party ballot. Here is who I will be voting for:

(NOTE: I’ve not included endorsements for Governor’s Council, Clerk of Supreme Judicial Court, Clerk of Superior Court (Civil Business), and Clerk of Superior Court (Criminal Business) because I have not been able to find enough information about the candidates)

Candidates who are not in my district, but have my support, include:

  • REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS (EIGHTH DISTRICT): Brianna Wu
  • REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT (NINTH SUFFOLK DISTRICT): Jon Santiago
  • REPRESENTATIVE IN GENERAL COURT (FIFTEENTH SUFFOLK DISTRICT): Nika Elugardo

Vote November 7th: Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston


Hello Boston residents!  There is a municipal election next Tuesday, November 7th.  Please commit yourself to voting on Tuesday and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to vote as well.  You can find your polling location online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx.  You will be voting for Mayor of Boston and City Council.

Learn more about the candidates and their issues:

I’d like to encourage you to vote for Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston.  Tito is a lifelong resident of Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood and since 2011 he has served on the City Council as the representative of District 7 (all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods).  I’ve come to know him in recent years primarily through being active with Boston Public School parents and students to defend against three consecutive years of severe budget cuts from the Walsh administration and the threats of corporate education reform organizations, and advance a just and equitable model of public education.  As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, Tito frequently meets and works with parents and students of Boston Public Schools.  He recognizes the good work that BPS teachers and students are already doing, at a time when it is fashionable to attack public education as failing.  He understands that schools will get better only if every school and every student receive equitable resources and we address problems due to poverty, inequality, and physical and mental health.

As you might imagine, education is one of the key issues on Tito’s platform.  But he is also very concerned with housing.  If you’ve tried to rent or buy a home in Boston in the past couple of decades you know it’s an extremely competitive housing market where an increasing demand for a static supply of housing stock has forced rents and mortgages through the roof.  Members of Boston’s working and middle classes are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the city.  And when new housing is built, developers inevitably target it to high-end buyers.  Tito is committed to making housing economically viable for all by increasing the number of truly affordable housing units.

Of course it’s easy to make promise that look great on a webpage, but there’s something about Tito that sets him apart from other candidates: he is truly a representative of the people who listens to them and works to resolve their problems.  A couple of years ago, Boston was selected as a candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  I had mixed feelings on the issue myself.  On the one hand I enjoy the Olympics and it would be a treat to have it in our great city, but on the other hand I know that the cost of the Olympics can be economically devastating to the host city.  Although the supporters of the bid promised that no public funding would be used for the Olympics, many citizens were concerned about the lack of transparency around the contents of the actual bid documents.  Tito was initially supportive of Boston 2024 but listened to the growing concern of his constituents and filed a subpoena forcing the Boston 2024 organizers to release the full, unredacted bid.  As feared, the bid put Boston on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, and that was before any inevitable cost overruns.  This is just one instance of Tito listening to his constituents, acting on their concerns, and working toward greater transparency and equity in Boston government.

Ok, so you may be saying to yourself, why change horses midstream?  Isn’t Marty Walsh nationally recognized as a progressive leader?  Doesn’t Walsh have box full of prominent endorsements?  How is Tito any different?

If that’s the case, here are five reasons why you should not vote for Marty Walsh:

  • Walsh has repeatedly put Boston on the hook for the costs of big monied interests coming to Boston, from the Olympics to Indycar, and General Electric to Amazon.  While bringing these megaevents and corporations to Boston may not be bad in themselves,Walsh’s complete lack of transparency in all of these negotiations is bad for the city, especially when Walsh doesn’t even read the fine print of what he’s committing the city to.
  • Walsh’s vision for Boston is one based on prioritizing single-occupancy motor vehicles, an autopian view that we have at least 70 years of evidence won’t work.  Walsh has openly stated that he’s a “car guy” and declared that pedestrians and bicyclists are responsible for their own deaths, “You have to understand, cars are going to hit you.”  He recently minimized problems with the MBTA that features daily delays and overcrowding on crumbling infrastructure, showing how out of touch he is with the average Boston commuter.  Walsh’s pro-car stance and indifference to public transit, bikes, and pedestrians doesn’t even take into the account the effects of climate change on a coastal city like Boston if we keep pumping pollutants into the air.
  • In one of the most heartbreaking incidents in Walsh’s term, he closed the city’s largest homeless shelter on Long Island in October 2014, just months before one of the most severe winters in recent memory.  Walsh was given the option of ferry service to Long Island to replace the unsafe bridge, but instead the homeless (many of them suffering from addiction) were distributed through the city.  Not coincidentally, the homeless encampment at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard (a.k.a. Methadone Mile) has swelled in recent years.  The Walsh administration only attempts to address this is to put up a tent across the street to hide the homeless and addicted from view.  Meanwhile, a farm on Long Island once used by homeless Bostonians to raise food for themselves was given over by the city to a for-profit fast food chain.
  • Mayor Walsh has slashed the budget for Boston Public Schools every year since he came into office forcing schools to cut teachers, nurses, librarians, and important programs to make up the gaps.  The most recent budget cut support for students with autism by 21%.  Walsh is a major supporter, an effort to funnel public education money to privately run schools that have none of the accountability of public schools and frequently work to break teachers unions, ignoring the expertise of teachers and principals to follow untested education innovations proposed by corporate backers.  Walsh has introduced the Boston Compact, a dark-money funded effort to force all students enrolling in BPS to have to accept assignment at any school, whether a public school or private charter.  BPS students twice staged walkouts in protest of the Walsh administration’s education policy, but Walsh insulted these students and refused to meet with them to discuss their concerns.
  • For the predominately white, college-educated, professional class the Walsh years are boom times in Boston.  But Boston also has growing levels of inequality that place it among the worst cities for equality in the nation.  A recent report card on the Walsh administration from the NAACP gives the Walsh administration a D for equity, access, and opportunity.  In 2015, Walsh fired a City Hall employee who participated in a Black Lives Matter protest on her own time, yet did not fire a racist Boston police officer who posted a video stating the “Black people have met their match” and continues to let this officer to patrol in communities of color.  Rising rents and housing costs are forcing mass displacement of Boston’s working class and middle class communities, particularly the Black and Latin communities of the city.

The Walsh administration has failed again and again on these issues that are important to me: economic growth, transportation, public safety, homelessness and addiction, education, and rising inequality.  I guarantee you that Tito Jackson has solutions to try to address all of these problems, but most importantly he will listen to the people of Boston – all of the people of Boston – when he does so.  We need to move past the king mayor who haughtily dismisses the citizens of Boston while working with monied interests from outside the city, and elect the mayor of the people.  I believe Tito Jackson will best represent the people of Boston.

 

Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston


If you’re reading this and live in the city of Boston, I implore you to vote in the City of Boston Preliminary Election on September 26th, 2017.  Preliminary elections are notorious for low turnout meaning a handful of people get to decide who will represent our city, and they usually don’t reflect the full range of ideology within the city.  There are four candidates running for mayor of Boston, and the two who receive the most votes will advance to the general election in November.  If you live in Districts 1, 2, 7, & 9, you will also have a preliminary election for City Council, again with the top two vote recipients advancing to November’s general election.  Please commit yourself to voting on Tuesday and encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to vote as well.  You can find your polling location online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/bal/MyElectionInfo.aspx.

Okay, if I’ve convinced you to vote, you may be wondering who you should vote for.  I’d like to encourage you to vote for Tito Jackson for Mayor of Boston.  Tito is a lifelong resident of Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood and since 2011 he has served on the City Council as the representative of District 7 (all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods).  I’ve come to know him in recent years primarily through being active with Boston Public School parents and students to defend against three consecutive years of severe budget cuts from the Walsh administration and the threats of corporate education reform organizations, and advance a just and equitable model of public education.  As Chair of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education, Tito frequently meets and works with parents and students of Boston Public Schools.  He recognizes the good work that BPS teachers and students are already doing, at a time when it is fashionable to attack public education as failing.  He understands that schools will get better only if every school and every student receive equitable resources and we address problems due to poverty, inequality, and physical and mental health.

As you might imagine, education is one of the key issues on Tito’s platform.  But he is also very concerned with housing.  If you’ve tried to rent or buy a home in Boston in the past couple of decades you know it’s an extremely competitive housing market where an increasing demand for a static supply of housing stock has forced rents and mortgages through the roof.  Members of Boston’s working and middle classes are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the city.  And when new housing is built, developers inevitably target it to high-end buyers.  Tito is committed to making housing economically viable for all by increasing the number of truly affordable housing units.

Of course it’s easy to make promise that look great on a webpage, but there’s something about Tito that sets him apart from other candidates: he is truly a representative of the people who listens to them and works to resolve their problems.  A couple of years ago, Boston was selected as a candidate to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.  I had mixed feelings on the issue myself.  On the one hand I enjoy the Olympics and it would be a treat to have it in our great city, but on the other hand I know that the cost of the Olympics can be economically devastating to the host city.  Although the supporters of the bid promised that no public funding would be used for the Olympics, many citizens were concerned about the lack of transparency around the contents of the actual bid documents.  Tito was initially supportive of Boston 2024 but listened to the growing concern of his constituents and filed a subpoena forcing the Boston 2024 organizers to release the full, unredacted bid.  As feared, the bid put Boston on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, and that was before any inevitable cost overruns.  This is just one instance of Tito listening to his constituents, acting on their concerns, and working toward greater transparency and equity in Boston government.

If you’re still not convinced to vote for Tito, perhaps you just really like Marty Walsh and see no reason to change mayors, I’m going to ask you to still go ahead and vote for Tito Jackson in the preliminary election on Tuesday.  I honestly think that Marty Walsh will be a better mayor if he faces a strong challenge from Tito, and has to defend his past decisions and plans for the future, and learns to be a better leader by listening to what Tito and his supporters have to say.  If after six weeks of intense campaigning and debates, you’re still not convinced that Tito would make a better mayor, go ahead and vote for Walsh in November.  But I think the more that people get to see and hear Tito Jackson and how he is speaking for the everyday people of Boston, the more you’re going to want to vote for him.

My Vote For President (and some more important things)


I know everyone has been waiting to see the official 2016 Presidential endorsement of a minor blogger with 289 followers, and here it is!  Actually, I think endorsements are mostly bunk and it drives me crazy how the media constantly speculates over who will endorse who and how many votes an endorsement will gain when I believe endorsements have very little sway in electoral outcomes.  That being said I thought it would make an interesting exercise just to lay out my thought process on voting in November.  And if like-minded individuals stumble upon this post, I believe it may help them too.

So, this November 8th, I will be casting my vote for President for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

I can hear some of you already crying out that a vote for Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.  But you ignore that United States President is elected by the Electoral College.  I live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which is perhaps the most Clintonian state in the union.  Even if every Massachusetts citizen voted their conscience, Hillary Clinton is genuinely preferred by most of the voters and would win the state by a comfortable margin.  All of Massachusetts’ 11 electoral will go to Clinton no matter regardless of my vote.  This is true in the majority of the states and the District of Columbia.  If you live in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio,  Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and want to stop Trump, by all means please vote for Clinton even if you don’t like her! If you live anywhere else you can safely vote your conscience for any candidate of you choice (although if your conscience tells you to vote for Trump, you should reexamine your conscience).

Why then, you may ask, will I be voting for Stein and encouraging others to consider to do so?  Here are four reasons:

  1. I think Stein would make a good President – Voting for a candidate one actually likes is such a strange idea in American politics, but I believe that the more people who do so the more likely we’d end up with public servants who best represent our nation’s hopes and dreams.  Too many people chose instead vote for a candidate that they think will win (because they like to be on the side of winners) or the lesser of two evils (because they want to stop the most reprehensible candidate without considering that they are still electing evil).  No candidate is 100% perfect, but I’ve been following Jill Stein’s career since she ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and appreciate her efforts.  Her background is as a medical doctor and as an activist she’s had success in advancing environmental and electoral campaign reform issues.  The issues that she puts in the forefront of her platform include those that are near and dear to my heart including poverty-reduction, public education, racial justice, environmental protection, greater equality for all, public transportation, and a foreign policy based on diplomacy rather than militarism.
  2. I believe we need more than two political parties – The Democratic and Republican parties do not come close to representing the full-spectrum of political thought in our country.  I think there needs to be many more viable parties in national, state, and local politics to both encourage greater participation in our democracy and better representation in governments.  A criticism I’ve seen lately is that third parties run “vanity candidates” for President and if they really want to make a change they should start the party at the local level and work up.  I’ve been frustrated that many elections in Massachusetts – from mayor to Congress – feature Democrats running opposed and wish that there were Green Party challengers, but ultimately this criticism misses out on a few points.  First of all, local elections get very little media attention to start with, and third-party candidates virtually nil.  Running  a presidential candidate who can’t win has an air of vanity to it, but it’s also an advertisement that makes people aware that the party even exists.  It’s akin to the fashion designer who makes a complex get up for a model to wear down a runway in order to get people to buy their off-the-rack clothing.  Secondly, many states require parties to win a certain percentage of votes in an election in order to earn and retain access to appearing on official ballots and to get matching funds from the government.  Running a Presidential candidate is a way that third parties can keep their party alive for the next local election.  It’s a screwed-up system, but for the time being, a necessary one.
  3. It can send a message to Hillary Clinton, and make her a better President – Over the course of her long public career as First Lady/”Co-President,” Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly advocated for policies that have hurt the most vulnerable in our nation and abroad.  This includes supporting unnecessary wars for “regime change,” dismantling social safety nets, increasing mass incarceration, privatizing public schools, deregulating the financial industry, and trade deals that allow international corporations freedoms from United States laws and regulations.  For these reasons I cannot vote for Clinton.  The primary election against Bernie Sanders helped push Clinton to abandon some of her older policies and adopt more progressive policies, but I fear that once she is President she may resume her old ways.  If Jill Stein wins 5-10% of the vote in a Clinton stronghold like Massachusetts that will be a sign to Clinton that the status quo is not acceptable and she will need to govern from a more progressive position.
  4. The Presidency is overrated – I expect this may be my most controversial position, but the power of the President is not as great as everyone thinks.  I frequently see charts showing how the country prospered during certain Presidencies and faltered during others as evidence of a particular President’s greatness or weakness.  But these charts treat the Presidency as if it is in a vacuum, ignoring all the other factors that affect the well-being of our country, including Congress and the Supreme Court, state and local governments, business, the actions of the citizenry, and foreign affairs.  While the Presidential election gets up to two years of coverage, and Presidents and candidates have constant media attention, it is dangerous to overlook the other elections for Congress, state and local governments, and ballot initiatives.  The low participation in these elections have moved our governments away from being representative of our communities, and right-wing corporatism organizations like ALEC have taken advantage of this to elect politicians friendly to their interests and pass legislation authored by ALEC.  We need full participation in our politics at every level to counteract this and give power to the people where it belongs.

So I implore everyone reading this to the following things:

  • Verify that you are registered to vote and if not find out the requirements and deadlines, and register ASAP!
  • Find out what will be on your ballot and research every candidate and ballot initiative.
  • Be aware that there may be primary or preliminary elections.  Make sure to vote in these too!
  • Contribute to your favorite candidates by volunteering, donating, or even just talking about them with your friends.
  • Keep voting in every election your eligible, not just in Presidential election years.  Be aware that not all election days are in November.
  • Keep in regular contact with your elected officials – mail, email, phone, in person – and remind them where you stand on the issues you care about most.
  • Make sure that even politicians you like know when you think they are wrong.  Don’t accept the idea that these are “attacks” that “hurt” the good politicians.  Dissent is necessary for healthy government.
  • Remember that electoral politics are just a portion of what makes our democracy work.  Most of the great advancements in US history came when people who cared got together to make a change.  Commit to being active in your community to whatever level you are able.

Links of the Day for 17 December 2007


Before we get to the links, I just want to mention a couple of things:

  1. I’ve added a del.icio.us widget to the sidebar on the right which will show you the last 5 links of the day I’ve posted. I’m not sure what this does yet other than create redundancy but it’s a start. Again, any tips for social bookmarking/link sharing are much appreciated.
  2. I’ve finally caught up with my backlog of posts from the past six weeks. I’ve dated them all from the day I started writing them not the day they were actually published. If you’re reading this on a feed you’ve probably already seen them pop up, but otherwise go back to Nov 7th and read forward and see if there’s anything you missed. I’ve some ideas for interesting original posts coming up this week so this deluge of link dumps will come to an end.

And now the links of the day: